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While the world was shocked by the news that Israeli forces killed more than 60 Palestinians in one day last week, Israeli officials have refused to cooperate with a United Nations investigation into the slaughter, and have defended the death toll by calling Palestinians “Nazis.”

May 14 marked the bloodiest day in Gaza since 2014 when Israel opened fire on Palestinian protesters who were demonstrating within 100 meters of their border fence. More than 2,700 Palestinians were injured, and the majority of them were hit by live fire. The death toll was around 60, and at least six of the civilians who were killed were under the age of 18, according to reports from the Gaza Health Ministry.

In response to concerns about the number of Palestinians killed and injured, Gilad Erdan, Israel’s minister of Strategic Affairs and Hasbara, released a statement on Twitter justifying the actions by equating Palestinians to “Nazis.”

 “Despite the number of dead, we need to remember and remind: We’re not speaking about demonstrations. We’re talking about terrorists of a terrorist organization who endanger Israeli residents. All responsibility for the bloodshed lies with the leaders of Hamas, who, with Nazi anger, endlessly shed blood to erase from people’s memories their own failures in the management of the Gaza Strip. Here it is, the truth,” Erdan said, as translated by Mondoweiss.

Erdan continued, and claimed that Israel was the side working to de-escalate the situation and that the number of Palestinians who were killed “doesn’t indicate anything.”

“Israel does not wish to escalate and doesn’t want the death of residents of the Gaza Strip. Those who want this are solely the leadership of the Hamas terrorist organization, which uses a cynical and malicious use of bloodshed. The number of killed doesn’t indicate anything—just as the number of Nazis who died in the world war doesn’t make Nazism something you can explain or understand,” Erdan said

Israeli officials then announced on Friday that they will refuse to cooperate with a UN investigation into the killings and that they insisted that the idea of launching such a probe clearly shows that the UN Human Rights Council has an “anti-Israel bias,” and supports terrorism. The United States also voted to block the investigation.

However, the claim that the only people shot by Israeli forces were “terrorists” or “members of Hamas” simply is not true. While Israel’s rules of engagement allow sniper fire on anyone who is within 100 meters of their border fence, as long as the snipers claim that they believe the individual’s intent was to “penetrate Israeli territory,” several of the people shot and injured last week were women, children, journalists, and paramedics.

Yaser Murtaja, a Palestinian photojournalist, was wearing a jacket that clearly said “PRESS” when he was shot in the chest and killed by an Israeli sniper last month. As The Intercept noted“Either the Israeli sniper could not clearly see who was in the rifle scope—in which case the claim that the use of live fire is precise is shown to be untrue—or the soldier intentionally fired at a journalist, which is a war crime.”

Just as The Free Thought Project advocates for the freedom of Americans, we advocate for the freedom of Israelis and the Palestinians. Only through discussion and peaceful criticism will peace ever be achieved.

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While there are Palestinians who claim that Israel has no right to exist, there are Israelis who say the same thing about Palestine. A documentary from Empire Files released in October 2017 showed that a number of Israeli citizens support their government’s occupation in the Gaza Strip, and believe the land is rightfully theirs to own.

As a report from Amnesty International noted, Israel “maintains an illegal air, sea and land blockade on Gaza and maintains a so-called ‘access-restricted area’ or buffer zone within Gaza. These have cut off more than 2 million Palestinians from other parts of the Occupied Palestinian Territories and the outside world for 10 years.”

The report also noted that while there have been more than 1,000 complains of torture submitted to Israel since 2001, none of them have been investigated, and Israel continues to build new settlements on occupied territory:

“For the last 50 years, Israel has been forcing thousands of Palestinians off their land, occupying and illegally using it to create settlements that exclusively house Jewish Israeli settlers.

Entire Palestinian communities have been displaced by these settlements. Their homes and livelihoods have been destroyed, they’ve had restrictions enforced on their movement, access to their own water, land and other natural resources. The communities have also been violently attacked by the Israeli military and settlers.”

Israel has the power to limit the most basic resources in Gaza, and Palestinian residents are lucky to receive four hours of electricity a day. Earlier this year reports also revealed that while the Gaza Strip endured a massive drought, Israel cut off fresh water and as many as 2 million residents were left to suffer without it.

The conditions from the occupation have become so egregious that many Palestinians who join in protests against Israel claim they do so because they have nothing to lose. Samer, 27, told the Jerusalem Post last month that he risked his life to join in the protests because he wanted to take a stand.

“Israel took everything from us, the homeland, freedom, our future,” Samer said. “I have two kids, a boy, and a girl, and if I die, God will take care of them.”

As for Hamas, a 2014 report from the Washington Post noted that the terrorist organization actually “has the Jewish state to thank for its existence.” The report noted that Hamas was originally created by Israel in the 1960s to combat Yasser Arafat's Fatah party, formed by the Palestinian Liberation Organization, which was Israel’s enemy at the time.

In the same way that the United States blatantly ignores the blowback that has resulted from its reckless decisions to arm and train extremists in Syria in an attempt to overthrow President Bashar al-Assad, Israel also ignores its involvement in helping Hamas become the group that it is today.

While Israel continues to claim that anyone who joins in on the protests is a member of Hamas, it plays the same game as the United States by giving the group more credit than it deserves and failing to acknowledge the fact that many Palestinians who participate in protests against Israel are doing so because they are begging the world to stand up against Israel’s occupation of their land and control over their resources.